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Pachauri hospitalised; pressure mounts for his ouster from TERI

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Pachauri hospitalised; pressure mounts for his ouster from TERI
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New Delhi: Noted environmentalist R.K. Pachauri, who awaits a bail hearing Thursday on charges of sexual harassment, was Wednesday admitted to a city hospital even as women activists mounted pressure demanding his resignation as TERI director general. Pachauri has denied the allegations but proceeded on leave from TERI.

Pachauri, who Tuesday stepped down as chairperson of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), would not face any inquiry by the world body into the allegations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York Tuesday.

The 75-year old was Feb 21 admitted to a private hospital here on account of a heart problem, a source in The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) told IANS. The news about his hospitalisation came to light Wednesday.

Registering a strong protest, women activists questioned the TERI governing council for not initiating a "disciplinary" enquiry against him for acts of alleged misconduct and demanded that he must be "suspended pending the enquiry".

In a strongly worded letter to a member of the governing council, lawyer Indira Jaisingh, activist Kavita Krishnan, former planning commission member Syeda Hameed along with others, sought "suspension" of Pachauri from his position pending an internal enquiry by the presiding officer of the internal complaints committee of TERI.

As "concerned citizens", the activists contended that "no fair inquiry can be held while he is still the director general of the organization".

"...Given that he is the senior-most executive of the Organization, it stands to reason that all members of the Internal Complaints Committee would be junior to him, exaggerating an already existing imbalance of power between him and the Complainant and between him and members of the Internal Complaints," the letter said.

"We, therefore, write to you in our capacity as concerned citizens to call upon Dr.R.K. Pachauri to resign from the position of Director General of TERI. You alone have the power to do, and if he fails to do so you have the power to terminate his engagement as Director General of TERI," the women activists said.

The Padma Bhushan awardee is facing a complaint of alleged harassment by a woman research analyst who has also lodged a police case.

Citing several texts, emails, and WhatsApp messages as evidence to prove the claim of sexual harassment, the complainant accused the scientist of harassing her soon after she joined the TERI in September 2013.

However, Pachauri's counsel refuted the accusations saying his client's computer and phone were "hacked".

In his resignation letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, he stated his inability to continue as the IPCC chair on the grounds that the international climate change body needed "strong leadership and dedication of time" that he was unable to commit to "under the circumstances... as shown by my inability to travel to Nairobi to chair the plenary session of the panel this week".

"I have, therefore, taken the decision to step down from my position," he had said.

The activists said the "same logic" should be applied to his leadership at TERI.

"Allowing him to go on leave is adding insult to injury... We fail to understand why this extraordinary benefit has been allowed to him and why he was allowed to go on leave rather than sanctioned," the letter said.

Further expressing their concern for the complainant, they demanded "adequate witness protection and given freedom to conduct the multiple court proceedings that are in progress without any hindrance and be granted leave with pay if she so desires".

"Sustainability of the earth which we all love so much, requires first and foremost the sustainability of human beings and this requires that leaders and eminent persons at the helm of an organization respect the dignity and autonomy of women at the workplace.

"His resignation pending inquiry will send a message to the nation that as a group of eminent public personalities, you care about the well being and status of the women in society and that as a nation we do not tolerate the violation of the dignity and autonomy of women," they added.

His removal from the IPCC assumes great significance at a time when India is being looked up to for leading the global negotiations at the UN climate change conference in Paris in December.

Paris 2015 will serve as a global platform where world leaders would converge to hammer out a universal framework to roll back carbon emissions after 2020. The new framework would replace the current Kyoto protocol.

Pachauri, as the IPCC chair, was expected to play a prominent role in all the key negotiations in the run up to Paris 2015.

In 2007, the IPCC, headed by Pachauri, was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with former US vice president Al Gore for their part in galvanizing international action against climate change.

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